I ended his call and sighed in frustration. He tried to follow me but I ran as fast as I could until he couldn’t see me anymore. Nakarating ako sa gilid ng isang building na hindi ko alam kung ano ang pangalan. Fortunately, shaded area rito kaya hindi gano'n kainit. Wala ring tao kaya naisipan kong dito muna magpahinga.
Medyo na-guilty naman ako sa sinabi ko kay Kuya. I know that he was just concerned about me but I didn't want to burden him or his career.
Yes, career. My brother was part of a band and he was quite famous in the campus.
Nakita ko naman ang ilang estudyante sa corridor ng building mula rito sa labas at halos lahat sila ay may bitbit na instrument.
"God, bakit gano'n si Ma'am?" the girl grumbled.
"I'm nervous. Bakit may showcase kaagad kahit first day pa lang?"
"Dalian natin! Baka mauna pa ang classmates nating mag-play ng piece."
Ah. This must be one of the Music department's building that houses the music lessons. Mukhang hindi dapat dito ang pinili kong lugar.
Naglakad ako palayo ro'n at naghanap ng bagong lugar. Now that I think about it, iba ang kulay ng ID lace ng kumukuha ng Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees. My brother had a red lace and I was wearing a blue one. I thought it was an indication of the year level but there were no other colors besides those two.
Maglalakad na sana ako papunta sa ibang lugar pero napahinto ako dahil sa narinig ko.
Ah. The nostalgic sound made by playing the keys of a piano hit my ears. Putting my earplugs was already too late.
Suddenly, the memories I was afraid to remember flooded my mind. My mother playing the piano, Dad was with his favorite violin, my brother strumming his guitar and there was me, sitting beside my mother and singing.
~ My love, it's been a long time since I cried and left you out of the blue It's hard leaving you the way when I never wanted to ~
This was one of my favorite songs and hearing it now triggered those painful memories. The voice had a distinct color—low and raspy yet you could still hear the sweetness in it, just like how Kitchie Nadal's voice sounded.
I walked toward the window of the room on the right and peeked. There was a girl sitting in front of the piano but I couldn’t see her face. Nagulat naman ako nang bigla siyang lumingon kaya agad akong napaupo. Sobrang lakas ng tibok ng puso ko at pakiramdam ko ay may mali akong ginawa. Bago pa niya ako napansin ay tumakbo na ako palayo at bumalik sa building namin.
My next class was Eng 13 so I went to the College of Arts and Letters building. Gaya ng ibang class ay nagpa-introduce lang din ang mga prof at kahit na ilang beses ko na 'yong ginagawa ay kinakabahan pa rin ako every time. Lagi rin akong umuupo sa tabi ng bintana at sa last row. I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I hope they wouldn’t bother talking to me, too.
Habang naghihintay sa prof ko sa last subject ay muling may tumugtog. A song started playing from the speakers and just like before, the students sang along. I used my earplugs but I internally groaned when I could still hear it because of the people singing along with it.
~I'd like to make myself believe that planet Earth turns slowly, It's hard to say that I'd rather stay awake when I'm asleep, 'cause everything is never as it seems~
"Narinig mo ba 'yong version ni Hans ng kantang 'to?" tanong ng isa doon sa katabi niya.
"Oh my gosh, yes!” she squealed. “Sobrang ganda no'n! Nakakakilig ang boses niya."
"'Di ba? I like Reed’s voice the most pero ang soothing kasi ng boses ni kay Hans."
I almost rolled my eyes upon hearing my brother’s name from their conversation. Alam kong sikat siya pero hindi ko akalaing maririnig ko mismong pinag-uusapan siya ng mga tao, lalo na at classmates ko pa. It felt weird.
The prof entered the classroom and she turned off the music. Nagsimula na rin siyang mag-discuss sa kung ano ang requirements namin sa class niya. He started introducing the subject and I took down notes. May pinapagawa naman agad siyang essay about our expectations on the course and how we view English courses. After an hour and a half, he dismissed our class and I was the first to leave the room after him.
Naglakad ako papunta sa library para gawin ang assignment namin sa Eng 13. Sir Salazar said we could pass the essay early and we would earn incentive so I decided to do it today. Medyo naligaw nga lang ako papunta sa library dahil hindi ko alam kung saan ‘yon banda. Pagkarating ko ro’n ay nilabas ko agad ang laptop ko at nag-type.
It was easy to write about the subject but I doubt I could say these words out loud. For me, writing is way more comfortable and easier than speaking. There are thoughts in my head that are hard to express in words. Oftentimes, I would forget what I was supposed to say. Unlike writing which is a one-way communication at that particular moment, speaking usually has a receiving end and would take a lot of energy and attention to sustain interest.
After an hour, I finished writing my paper. Pumunta ako sa printing section ng library at nagpa-print sa staff. Hinanap ko ang faculty room sa Department of English sa Arts and Letters building pero mukhang nasa loob ang pigeonhole ng professors kaya kahit kinakabahan ako ay pumasok ako sa loob.
Una kong naramdaman ang lamig. Sobrang lakas ng aircon sa faculty room kaya napayakap agada ko sa sarili ko. Pagtingin ko sa gilid ay nandoon ang pigeonholes kaya agad akong pumunta roon. Nilagay ko sa space ni Sir Salazar ang paper ko at mukhang may ilan ding nagpasa nang maaga tulad ko.
Just when I was about to leave, the door burst open and I saw Ma’am Malzel entering the room. Her expression was a mixture of panic and frustration. Ano kaya ang nangyari? At bakit nandito siya sa department na ito?
“Prim!” called a young-looking professor.
“Kit, sorry,” she said. “Ngayon ko lang nalaman na absent siya.”
I wasn’t sure what they were talking about but it sounded like a serious problem.
“But we don’t have time!” cried the guy.
Napabuntong-hininga na lang si Ma’am Malzel. “Maybe we can find someone to fill in—”
“But where can we find—”
Halos sabay silang napatingin sa direksyon ko kaya agad akong napaiwas ng tingin. Bumilis ang tibok ng puso ko dahil sa atensyon nila. Mabilis akong naglakad papunta sa pintuan pero nagulat ako nang bigla nila akong harangin.
“Ms. Guianan?” she called.
The guy’s eyes widened. “Guianan? Is she . . .”
“I’m really sorry but can you do us a favor?”
I wasn’t sure how I got dragged into this. Masyado akong na-intimidate sa kanila kaya kahit hindi ako sure ay um-oo ako. The next thing I knew, I was already following Ma’am Malzel and Sir Kit.
Sa loob ng faculty room ay may isa pang pintuan. Pumasok kami roon at may isang makitid na corridor ang sumalubong sa mga mata ko. Each side had several rooms like those you see in karaoke hubs. Pumunta kami sa pinakadulong room sa kanan. When Sir Kit opened the door, my knees almost buckled.
The room was a radio and broadcasting studio.
They said I just needed to read notes and play some recordings so I thought I was going to be a stand-in to a student assistant or a professor who couldn’t attend his or her class. Hindi ko naman akalaing ito ang gusto nilang ipagawa.
Saglit na umalis si Sir Kit kaya kaming dalawa na lang ni Ma’am Malzel ang naiwan. Pinaupo niya ako sa couch at umupo rin siya sa harapan ko.
She heaved a sigh. “I’m sorry, Ms. Guianan,” she said. “Emergency lang talaga.”
I wasn’t sure what to say so I just stayed quiet. In-explain naman niya sa akin nang mas mabuti ang sitwasyon. She said Raiza, their current student DJ, was absent but she didn’t inform them. Siya ang DJ noong nakaraang summer classes at naging maganda ang feedback kaya siya pa rin ang pinili nila this academic year pero hindi nila in-expect na a-absent siya sa first day of classes. Her schedule was from 1 P.M. to 1:30 P.M. kaya naman sobrang nag-panic sila kanina.
Sa totoo lang, gusto ko nang umalis at sabihing hindi ako comfortable sa pinapagawa nila, but I was scared to turn her down. I promised my brother not to cause any trouble, yet here I was, thinking of making a scene.
In-explain niya naman sa akin ang dapat kong gawin.
“You just need to read at least two letters and then play a song that suits the message,” she said. “That’s it. Can you do it, Ms. Guianan?”
My heart sunk after hearing that I had to play a song. I never listened purposely to any ever since our parents died. Kapag naman nakakarinig ako ng tugtog, kadalasan ay lumalayo ako o kaya ay naglalagay ako ng earplugs. Whenever I’m watching a movie or a series, minu-mute ko kapag may naririnig akong music. I was living like that for several years already . . . until today.
I had already heard a lot of songs today, even someone playing an instrument. Those sounds triggered my most painful memories. I wanted to run away from music, but deep in my heart and mind, a little part of me missed it.
Something dinged before I could even answer her question. Pagtingin ko, mayroon nang one-minute countdown sa LED screen sa itaas. Ma’am Malzel looked at me with pleading eyes.
Despite the crawling fear, I slowly nodded at her. For the first time in six years, I would face something I desperately stayed away from. I would listen to music.